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A private who was aboard one of the first few gliders to reach Normandy expresses his feeling: "I experienced an interesting psychological change in the few minutes before and immediately after take off. As I had climbed aboard and strapped myself into my seat I felt tense, strange and extremely nervous. It was as if I was in a fantasy dream world and thought that at any moment I would wake up from this unreality and find that I was back in the barrack room at Bulford Camp. Whilst we laughed and sang to raise our spirits - and perhaps to show others that we were no scared - personally I knew that I was frightened to death. The very idea of carrying out a night-time airborne landing of such a small force into the midst of the German army seemed to me to be little more than a suicide mission. Yet at the moment that the glider parted company with the ground I experienced an inexplicable change. The feeling of terror vanished and was replaced by exhilaration. I felt literally on top of the world.
I remember thinking, 'you've had it chum, its no good worrying anymore - the die has been cast and what is to be, will be, and there is nothing you can do about it.' I sat back and enjoyed my first trip to Europe." Yet another rifleman who was carried to the beach in the LCVPs relates one of his incidents: I got on the gun. I set the gun up, and were looking, were looking. He says, "See if you can spot him." All of a sudden I spotted him, about 200 yards away, and Id say maybe 30 or 40 feet higher than me. He wasnt firing at me. He was firing down across. So when he opened up again the Germans, when they fire, they fire fast, they dont fire like we did, because they change the barrels of their machine guns in seconds.
Ours were a pain. We had to take the whole gun apart and screw the barrel off, and then put another barrel on. They would get hot if you fired like the Germans. We only fired bursts of three or four at a time. The Germans put their finger down, theyd run a hundred off. Because they just push a button, the barrel falls out, and they put another one on.
We couldnt do that. We had to take the whole gun down, screw the barrel off, put a new barrel on, then loosen it three clicks, it was a pain. So he fired, I picked him up, I got about ten rounds in there, that sonofagun never fired any more. Some of the riflemen got up and they walked over and looked in the hole. They didnt signal that there was anybody in there. They just looked in the hole and walked away...
The Second World War had started almost five years ear, on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. England and France had promised to defend Poland. But they were unprepared to fight, and as a result they were terribly beaten. by the next spring, France had fallen into German hands. The British army had to flee the Continent and escaped from the French port of Dunkirk with frightful losses. In the summer of 1940 the Germans, with their allies, the Italians, controlled all of western Europe. The German air force began its attempt to bomb the British Isles into rubble. Nevertheless, the British began to think about getting back onto the continent. They started planning an attack across the Channel- even though it seemed more likely that they would become the invaded rather than the invaders.
Hitler threatened to invade England. He went so far as to assemble a fleet of barges along the French coast, planning to use them as assault boats. But he hesitated because he realized the risks of an amphibious attack. Also, he knew that the British navy would destroy itself, if necessary in an attempt to smash a German invasion fleet. Still the idea was tempting. The British knew as well as Hitler did that if the Germans could make the landing successfully, England would be lost.
Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighter pilots in their spitfires and hurricanes, lashed back at the great German air force. And British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British people looked forward to the day when England would attack. Then Hitler postponed his English invasion plans. it was, from his point of view, one if his greatest errors.. He made another bad mistake in June 1941 by declaring war on Russia, until then his ally. His Italian and Japanese partners also made mistakes.
They both attempted more than they had the strength to handle. Italy pushed the war into North Africa. Japan brought the United states into the conflict, on December 7th of that same year, by attacking Hawaii (Pearl Harbor) the Philippines and other American possessions in the Pacific. American military strategists, like the British, began to plan for the day when the Allies would invade Europe to destroy the powerful German army. In August 1942, when the United States was just beginning to turn its peacetime strength into military power, the British and Canadians actually made a small amphibious test raid across the Channel. it was aimed at the small French port of Dieppe. The raid was a disaster.
nearly half the 6,100 British and Canadian soldiers who took part in it were killed or captured. Yet, despite its frightful cost, the Dieppe raid taught the Allies a valuable lesson. This was that the built-up seaports, like Dieppe, were too well fortified to be attacked successfully, and that the great assault should aim for open beaches. But a large invasion, depending on great quantities of ammunition, gasoline, food and countless other supplies, would need a port or excellent unloading facilities in France. So the raid inspired an idea that worked: the Allies would bring the port with them. On D-day they towed from England all parts of the temporary ports which they put together off the flat Normandy beaches.
These included ships to be sunk as breakwaters, and floating piers, cranes and hoists. Right after Dieppe, things began to go better for the Allies. in the fall of 1942 the British 8th army, commanded by General Bernard Law Montgomery, defeated the Germans and Italians in Egypt- the first in a series of defeats that was to drive them out of the North African desert. And farther west, nearer to the Atlantic side of Africa, a 1000-ship British and American invasion force had landed. As it advanced to meet Montgomery, the enemy was caught in a powerful two-way squeeze. In January 1943, Prime Minister Churchill and President Franklin D.
Roosevelt met at Casablanca in north Africa. By then they felt that the tide of the war had turned. the Russians had stopped the Germans at the Russian city of Stalingrad, and were pushing back from Volga River. The North African campaign seemed certain to be a decisive Allied success. While the next step was to knock Italy out of the war, no small matter, a joint staff of British and Americans started to plan in the earnest for the great cross-Channel invasion. They hoped it would be ready by early 1944.
In May 1943 they gave the project its code name and started preparations. It was to be known as Operation Overlord, and the day of the attack, more popularly known as D-Day, although the term D-Day stands for any day of attack in a battle, it is more commonly referred for this particular attack on the European coastline. How important was air-power for D-days success? The assault troops in the boats- LCVPs ( Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel), generally understood the importance of what they were about to try to do at Normandy beach. But much of what had been going on was top secret. The men in the first boat sections observed the results of many actions they had heard practically nothing about. They noticed for instance that there were no German planes in the sky, but they didnt know why. The answer involved a fabulous battle story- of air battle- an air battle that had been fought and won as one part of the D-Day preparations. At this critical moment, the Germans had fewer than 200 fighter planes available for the defense of France.
Most of what they had were not going to get off the ground- for lack of gasoline. most of those that took to the air were not going to fight- primarily because they were so heavily outnumbered. That was a sign of one great job the Allied air forces had done. For two years the American bombers had been destroying Germanys gasoline-refining and plane-manufacturing factories. This was just as important as meeting and defeating German planes in the air. In the two months before the assault, the allied airmen had set out to wreck the railroads the German army would need for a counterattack.
In April and May 1437 French locomotives had been bombed or machine-gunned out of action. And the secret Allied helpers in France the men and women in the French resistance movement- had blown up another 292. The Allies had already won the war in the air at the cost of thousands of British and American lives. Without that earlier victory, the assault would have been foolhardy. So decisive was this victory that commander of the American air forces, General H. H.
Arnold compared it to the Battle of Gettysburg for its importance in American history. The leading ground troops merely noted the results. They were glad to see that all the planes in the sky had painted stripes like Christmas candy- meaning that they belonged to the Allies, not to the Germans. The men in the landing boats were delighted that the first steps of the assault had gone so smoothly! It had been noted on a higher level that unless the fighter strength of the enemy could be broken it may become literally impossible to carry out the destruction planned. A new plan was drafted. Operation Pointblank raising the reduction of the German fighter strength to the first priority while retainin ....
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